‘Nature can’t be blamed for health problems created by man-made environmental hazards’

The topic of the talk organised by the Urban Resource Centre (URC) on Tuesday was ‘The adverse effects on health due to weather changes’ and the speaker, Dr Tipu Sultan of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), changed it completely by showing a mirror to all those who were under the impression that they were occasionally under the weather because of nature.

Speaking about such people, he said that most common health issues that come up here were all thanks to man-made disasters, not natural weather changes. “What to blame the weather for when we have man-made gifts such as carbon emissions, electricity made from coal, polluted rivers and the sea thanks to releasing sewage and factory waste in our flowing streams, betel nut and tobacco to chew and cigarettes to smoke? We have heaps of garbage, which we cannot clean ourselves,” he said.

“It is something to understand,” he added.

“These are all our own man-made disasters. Since all nullahs with untreated sewage are channelled into rivers and seas, marine life is affected. The fish and crab from our seas are full of heavy metal and arsenic. The dirty water of our river streams is consumed by animals and livestock. It all comes back to us.

Expert says health is not a priority for decision-makers in Pakistan

“Ignorance, lack of education and being impoverished lead to gazillions of problems, and the mother of all problems here is physical and mental stunting. Pakistan has more of a young population. And when our children’s growth is stunted and they have a low IQ, how will this country even progress?” he asked.

“We are carrying a burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, HIV, hepatitis B and C, diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure,” he pointed out.

“Advanced countries pay six to seven per cent of their GDP [gross domestic product] on health. Bangladesh and India have increased their health budgets while health is not a priority for the decision makers in Pakistan,” he said.

“Besides a burden of diseases, we have challenges of diseases. There is diarrhoea and hepatitis A here because we don’t have clean drinking water. There was a time when we used to drink tap water, now we can’t even think of doing that. Our water lines are cracked and leaking. There is sewage mixed in our clean water lines so we suffer from both diarrhoea and hepatitis A,” he said.

“Measles is still a challenge. So are dengue and Congo viruses. The coronavirus is coming back as a new challenge, too. We can’t eradicate polio, too. The only two countries in the world that still have polio are Pakistan and Afghanistan. And there is also family planning that we can’t do,” he said.

“Then with all these problems already there, when natural disasters also take place, we cannot deal with them,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, By Shazia Hassan November 1st, 2023